Monday, May 04, 2009

Community: Does it really mean anything?

Yes, this is a serious question! It came to mind after a couple of recent events. One in particular was learning that a local outreach to the homeless –a drop in center to be exact- had begun to put the ban on sleeping in their facilities. Homeless people stay out most of the night and are dog tired when they get in, even if they had a place to sleep when they were out and about. So they are likely to rest a head on any nearby table or zap out in any available chair. There’s nothing wrong with that! But apparently, sleeping is associated with being on drugs in somebody’s mind. But the reason given on the public notice posted read something like this: “Sleeping Is no longer allowed at (Name of Outreach), - We can’t build community while you're sleeping”!


Community is as community does. You don’t have community if you are forcing others to conform to your expectations in a situation so ridiculously benign as sleeping. Dictionary .com gives various definitions of community, one of which is “a social group of any size whose members resides in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.” Well I hate to break it to certain people, but homelessness IS a culture in and of itself! How are you building community by insisting they behave in a way contrary to the given culture, i.e. by setting them up for a fall with a rule like “no sleeping?”

That’s only one anecdote. There have been several others encounters I have had over the years dealing with that word, too many to list, really. Personally I'm beginning to think that "Community" is a stupid, politically correct word that doesn't really mean anything, and should be eliminated from our vocabulary altogether.

And why not? It seems to me that when you attempt to build community based on your idea of a shared ideal, or what should be a shared ideal, you are destroying it for someone else.

People live together and share things in common to have “community.” I have yet to see any Intentional Community, however well intentioned in it's inception, be much more than bastions of legalism, control and generally wrong-headed thinking.

Or some decide to have one kid of event and not another at church to foster “community” (even though some may prefer the other type of event.) An example might be like this:

"Let's have quieter music at our meals instead of louder music, because Susie can't handle loud volumes."

"But the louder music is only once a month. Can't Susie go to a different meal during that week? Escpecially sinc esome peol;e prefer the louder groups."

"But if she has to leave for one week, that will harm our purpose of community."

Hmmm... perhaps Susie and the other places she could go would benifit from her "communing" elswhere for one week?

Or in another example, people might “reply all” to email messages (and as a result others not wanting it get flooded with unwanted emails) so they can feel like they are in “community.” (That’s why God made chatrooms, people! :])

And then there's the frequent referrences to "Community Salvation" in Christian beleifs, as opposed to "Individual Slavation" -as in Christian beleif. (If you have never encountered it and don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself blessed.) I have yet to find anyone who can articulate what that means. Probably because those who use it don't have a clue themselves!

"Communion" is the root word of Community, and here I think the Catholic Church and various Quaker groups have it right: Communion is essantially found in the presecene of God. The Catholics believe the elements of bread and wine are necessary for there to be Communion, the Quakers forsake those elements and insist we have all the Communion we need by coming together in the prescene of God. Either way they agree on one thing: God being present, not the best laid plans of mice and men, is what consititues "commun-ity."

And that's really the heart of my gripe, here. We go a long ways in getting off track by insisting this or that should or shouldn't be here in the name of comminuty, which realy is another name, IMHO, for "man-made institution."

Or we can just go by what Jesus said:

Matt. 18: 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

That’ really all that’s necessary, and I have to ask: why bother with anything more? You will never have the fellowship & unity that you have in Christ by implementing rules to mecahnically foster “community” elsewhere.

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